<i>FTN</i> Transcript - Oct. 22

face the nation logo, 2009

Bob Schieffer, CBS
News Chief Washington Correspondent:
Today on Face The Nation, Campaign 2000. It's coming down to the battleground states, and it is still close, close, close. With just two weeks to go, the presidential race could come down to who wins in Florida and the big states in the Middle West. So what's the strategy for Gore and Bush from here on? We'll ask Democratic Senator Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, Republican Governor George Pataki of New York, Democratic Senator Bob Graham of Florida and Republican Governor Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin. Then we'll bring in John Zogby and Geoff Garin. Gloria Borger will be here, and I'll have a final word on viewer mail.

But first, Campaign 2000 on Face The Nation. We begin this morning at Bush headquarters in Austin, Texas, where Governor George Pataki is standing by. With us from Omaha, Nebraska, Senator Bob Kerrey.

Well, Governor Pataki, it is very, very close by - by all the indications of the polls. You are down there in Austin, as I understand it. What - there are about 29 Republican governors going to meet there this afternoon and then fan out on a new campaign swing. But as this campaign comes down to the wire, getting very, very tough. Some Democrats, especially in Congress, are beginning to raise questions about whether Governor Bush has the capacity for leadership. Senator Kerrey said just this week, 'The governor is a high-risk choice.' Do you think that's fair?

Gov. George Pataki (R-N.Y.): Bob - Bob, that's totally unfair. And that's one of the reasons why 28 other Republican governors are meeting with Governor Bush today. We know Governor Bush as a colleague, as a leader, as someone who has very successfully led the second-largest and one of the most diverse states in America. More importantly, the American people have gotten a chance to see and understand Governor Bush over the course of the past months of this campaign. And that's why he is pulling ahead, because they understand that he has the right vision, the right leadership, and it's - to me, it's just very sad that if after eight years in power, the Clinton-Gore people can no longer inspire the American people, all they can do is try to frighten them...

Schieffer: Well...

Pataki: ...with the same divisive tactics that have prevented anything from - meaningful from being achieved on Social Security or Medicare in Washington. Governor Bush is a uniter.

Schieffer: OK. Take your point. Let's - let's stop just for a second here. Governor Kerry - I mean, Senator Kerrey, what did you mean by that? Were you saying that George Bush is not smart enough to be president?

Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.): No, I'm not saying that he's not smart enough. In fact, I'm not even saying he's not competent enough. I'm saying that experience matters. The governor has been governor of Texas for five years. It's a weak governor by constitutionThe legislature meets once every two years. The U.S. Congress is not the Texas Legislature. Moreover, Vice President Gore has had substantial more experience in foreign policy and domestic policy, and as to Governor Pataki taking outrage by what I said, the fact is that a majority of Republicans in the Congress think Governor Bush's tax proposals are risky, that they could put us back into - into having deficits again, that they could bring back high interest rates. In fact, many of the proposals that the governor himself has - has proposed are not likely to go anywhere in a Congress that does view them as too risky.

Gloria Borger, U.S. News & World Report: Senator Kerrey, though, this decision to take on George Bush's competency, though, st - seem to come after a meeting between congressional leaders and top officials in the Gore campaign. So is what we are seeing now a coordinated effort where congressional leaders go on one track and the Gore campaign goes on another?

Kerrey: I don't think so. I mean, I hope that we're...

Borger: Did they tell to you do this? Did they suggest...

Kerrey: No, they did not.

Borger: ...or did you suggest...

Kerrey: No.

Borger: ...to them that perhaps this would be a good thing?

Kerrey: No, in fact - no, and I - look, I didn't call them and - and I'm not their lap dog working at their behest. I have watched for 12 years president's function. And let me gi - let me give you two examples. You don't have to go back very far to former governors to see how they perform. In - in a recent interview in - in The New Yorker, President Clinton admits that he made a mistake in Somalia, that he made a mistake on health care because of his lack of experience. Well, in Somalia, we lost troops. In Somalia, we had to withdraw in disgrace. We probably didn't go into Rwanda by his own admission. You don't have to go back very far to find out where a governor without a sufficient amount of experience can make terrible mistakes that cost the American people dearly.

Borger: Governor Pataki, le - let me ask you this about Gore in the polls. Al Gore seems to be leading George Bush on most of the issues that the voters seem to say that they care about, issues like Social Security, prescription drug benefits, health care, even taxes. Yet now Governor Bush is inching ahead in the polls. How do you explain that? What is it about?

Pataki: Well, I think Gov - I think Governor Bush is pulling ahead because the American people have had a chance to see him, hear him in the debates and understand that he's not just a more likable person, but he also has the depth and the substance. He has been a chief executive; Al Gore has not. He understands the issues and showed that during the course of the debates. And I think there are two very different philosophies here. There's Al Gore, who's the ultimate Washington insidr, who has the support of the Washington insiders and believes in government. And Governor Bush, who's been very successful in empowering people and working in a bipartisan way, bringing Democrats and Republicans together to really solve problems.

And you talk about issues. No state in America has accomplished more in raising educational standards, particularly for minority students, than Governor Bush has in Texas. And that's because he is a very effective leader who empowers people. And that's why we're going to have 29 governors, including in every group a Texas Democrat, who supports Governor Bush, going out to 25 different states to tell the American people what we know about this excellent leader who will lead this country very well when he's given that - the - the opportunity to do that by the American people on November 7th.

Schieffer: Let me - let me ask both of - both of you this question. Senator Kerrey, why do you think this race is so close? Could it possibly be because neither of these men really excites very many people out there in the electorate?

Kerrey: Well, I can't - I don't know why the race is close. All I can say is that - you know, I think that George W. Bush has done a good job as - as governor of Texas. And my - and my - my white male friends tell me he's a good old boy, just like me. But I want a good president. I mean, it matters to look at the experience. And I think the lack of experience can get people into trouble. And if you examine the power that a Texas governor has and the authority a Texas governor has, it is nowhere near, I'd say to Governor Pataki, the kind of authority that you would have in the state of New York or Governor Thompson in the state of Wisconsin. It's substantially less. He's been governor for five years. They meet every two years, the legislature does. And I'll guarantee if he's elected president, he'll find out the U.S. Congress is not the same thing as the Texas Legislature.

Schieffer: Well, why do you think it's so close, Governor?

Pataki:: Acc - Bob - Bob, accord - according to Senator Kerrey's analysis, we could never elect anyone who didn't spend a great deal of time in Washington and I think that's just nonsense.

Kerrey: Well...

Pataki: The great presidents...

Kerrey: I...

Pataki: ...like Ronald Reagan have come from the governorship because they have been leaders who've had experience in hands-on management and pu - bringing together legislatures. And Governor Bush has had a Democratic Legislature his entire first time...

Kerrey: I'm not say - I am not saying - I am not saying that...

Pataki: ...but he worked with them well. And - and - and, Senator, with all due respect, it's the Clinton-Gore team in Washington that has allowed our military to be weakened, that has overdeployed the military in nation-building proposals. Governor Bush has made it very plain. He wa the one who spoke out first in the debates and said Somalia became the wrong mission when it became nation building. So I think his philosophy of foreign policy...

Kerrey: Yeah.

Pataki: ...his knowledge of foreign policy, as well as his experience as one of the finest executives in the 50 states of America...

Kerrey: Oh, Governor Pat - come on.

Pataki: ...make him an eminently qualified to be not just the president, but a great president.

Kerrey: Jeez. Please. I mean, first of all, I - I - I suspect Governor Bush was supporting his father in 1992 saying that - saying that we don't need a Washington outsider and a novice governor from Arkansas. I'm not saying that Governor Bush is a bad person who's done a bad job. But nobody could make the claim that Governor Bush has great experience in foreign policy. He had to be coached and teached...

Pataki: He has great - he has great knowledge in foreign policy.

Kerrey: ...sir - no, sir. He had to be trained and coached.

Pataki: It is Clinton-Gore that has overdeployed the American military.

Schieffer: OK. Time out. Time out.

Kerrey: ...to remember the first and last names of world leaders. He had to be taught these things.

Schieffer: OK. OK, gentlemen, thank you so much, both - both of you.

Pataki: Thanks, Bob.

Schieffer: Very, very exuberant this morning.


Schieffer: Well, let's move it on a little bit. In Madison, Wisconsin, and heading down to Austin as soon as he gets through with this is Republican governor out there, Tommy Thompson. Joining us here in our studio, the Democratic senator from Florida, Bob Graham, both of these battleground states.

I want to ask you first, Senator Graham, quite a bit of talk this week about whether or not President Clinton ought to join - join Vice President Gore on campaign trail. And some of the people in the Gore campaign don't seem to want him. But what do you think he ought to do?

Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.): Well, first, I think he has been part of the campaign. The credibility of Al Gore's future vision is largely predicated on the successes that Clinton-Gore have had over the last eight years. The fact that he was part of the team that brought people together behind the balanced budget agreement, behind welfare reform, behind the crime bill is testimony to his ability to do the same thing during his presidency.

Schieffer: But - but...

Graham: Second is Al - that Al Gore has gotten tremendous assistance from Bill Clinton in things like organizational and fund-raising and those aspects that are critical to a modern presidential campaign.

Schieffer: But you know why the Gore people don't want him out there standing side by side with the vice president, 'cause it reminds people of you-know-what - Monica. Should they overcome that or is that a problm?

Graham: Well, this is not a campaign about the past, other than the degree to which the past can give some certification for the future. This is a campaign about Al Gore and his view of America. And that's what the American people are going to vote on.

Schieffer: Governor Thompson, as a Republican, would you like to see Bill Clinton out there?

Gov. Tommy Thompson (R-Wis.): Well, I think Bill Clinton should be out there. I don't know why they're so afraid of having Bill Clinton and Al Gore together? They were together for eight years and the people now are - want a change in America. And I think it's somewhat surprising that they kept telling how great they were as a team, and now Al Gore is absolutely petrified to be seen on the same stage as Bill Clinton.

And I - I have to just correct something that my friend Senator Graham said about welfare reform. Bill Clinton and Al Gore - Al Gore probably had more to do with the Internet than he ever did in welfare reform. He had absolutely nothing to do with welfare reform, but still he claims it. Another one of those exaggerations from the Democratic side.

Borger: Governor Thompson, let's just talk about your state because it's become a battleground state. The Democrats have won Wisconsin in the last three presidential elections.

Thompson: That's correct.

Borger: What is different this time in the state of Wisconsin?

Thompson: The candidates.

Borger: But...

Thompson: George B - George Bush is coming to Wisconsin. He's campaigning. He's articulate. He's given a vision for America that the people in Wisconsin are responding to. And when you...

Borger: How - how...

Thompson: Go ahead.

Borger: Excuse me. How close is it exactly?

Thompson: Well, we're up about three points in Wisconsin, which is tremendous because Wisconsin, as you know, Gloria, in the last three cycles has gone for the Democratic candidates. So we're - we feel very comfortable. We're cautiously optimistic that we're going to carry Wisconsin. And if we carry Wisconsin, Minnesota is also in play. We're up 2 points in Minnesota. So both of those states which have always gone on the Democratic side in the last cycle - three cycles look like they're going to go for George Bush because he's the best candidate.

Schieffer: And how about your state, Senator Graham? Where - where do you see the race down there in Florida right now?

Graham: Bob, there are two current polls out. One has Al Gore up by two points. One has Governor Bush up by four points. So both of them are essentially within the margin of error. I think the surprising thing is that I'm on this program today. I imagine you invited Governor Thompson six months ago, but it was only on Wednesday that you decided that Florida was going to be a battleground because six months ago, people would have thought Florida ws going to - was Bush country and you wouldn't see the candidates and they wouldn't be spending any time or money down there. The fact is that it is the i - basically the ideas of Al Gore, the ideas of 'Let's be conservative in using in surplus and let's concentrate on paying down the national debt to strengthen Social Security, let's modernize Medicare, make it more of a wellness program through a prescription medication benefit.' Those are the kind of issues that are appealing to Floridians that have made it a battleground.

Schieffer: And it's nothing personal, Senator Graham, but you're absolutely right about guest selections. But why do you think that is? I mean, after all, people did think that this was in Bush's pocket. After all, his brother is the governor of the state. Is his brother pl - playing any kind of role in this campaign?

Graham: Yes, a very important role. Governor Bush has been raising a tremendous amount of money. The - the Bush-Cheney team has been spending about a million dollars a week on television in Florida since Labor Day, and most of that money has been raised by his brother Jeb Bush.

Borger: Governor Thompson, how much help are you getting from Ralph Nader in the state of Wisconsin?

Thompson: Not as much as you would anticipate, Gloria. I know a lot of people think that because Madison has a lot of activists that they are going to be supporting Nader, that's going to influence the vote. But Jesse Jackson was in here two days last week talking to the Nader people trying to make...

Borger: But Jackson's not running for president, Nader is, and he's - he's polling - what? - five points or something? That comes out of Al Gore's hide.

Thompson: About - about - about four - about four points, Gloria. But there are a lot of people - it's only in - in a - very small pockets of - of the state. It's going to really be down to between George Bush and Al Gore. And when you compare Medicare and prescription drugs, Social Security, foreign policy, tax cuts, smaller government rather than larger government, which, of course, is the mantra of Al Gore and the Democrats, it's obvious that Wisconsin is leaning towards George Bush.

Schieffer: Is gun control any - anything of an issue out there, Governor Thompson?

Thompson: Oh, sure. Gun control is always an issue, but it is not as major of an issue as would you think. It's - really the major issues in Wisconsin - education and the fact that the Clinton-Gore administration had eight years to do something on Medicare and Social Security, failed to do it - it's a cynicism that has permeated Washington, DC, that George Bush says, 'Give me a chance. They've led, they haven't. And we - give - give us a chance to lead and we will.' And so I think if you give George Bush the opportunity, and people in Wisconsin want to give him the opportunity, he's going to show that you can get things done on Scial Security, Medicare and education, the three big issues of - of Wisconsin.

Schieffer: Governor Graham, quickly.

Graham: Well, I'd s - I'd say the first thing that Governor Bush has got to do in order to demonstrate that he can bring people together is to give us some clear specific ideas of what he wants to do. The fact that it was not until the third debate that he seemed to realize that his Social Security plan had a trillion dollar hole in it, that he was promising a trillion dollars to current beneficiaries at the same time he was promising a trillion dollars in individual retirement accounts to current workers is appalling. And it indicates that he doesn't have a plan which has the capability of galvanizing the American people and, therefore, giving him a legitimate mandate to come to Congress to try to get it adopted.

Schieffer: All right, gentlemen. I want to thank both of you. When we come back, we're going to hear from two pollsters who have the latest numbers on this tight presidential race in just a minute.


Schieffer: And continuing on with our political discussion, joining us now from Syracuse, New York, pollster John Zogby, and with us here in Washington, pollster Geoff Garin. I want to start with you, John, because before we get to the presidential race, it's my understanding that you've got a new poll out on the Hillary Clinton-Lazio race. I think most people thought that Mrs. Clinton was pulling ahead in that race. Now you have it back to about even. What's going on?

John Zogby, pollster: Well, she was pulling ahead, but she's had a bad week or so. What we found was, first of all, Hillary dropping from 48 percent support down to 42 percent. Lazio not moving at all. But the six points that Hillary dropped all went into the undecided column and were mainly among Jewish voters in New York City, where undecideds among Jews went from five percent to 17 percent. And then upstate New York, which is a natural constituent base for Lazio, where as soon as Lazio started to campaign upstate, Hillary, who had been campaigning in a vacuum, now lost some support and the upstate undecideds are up to 18 percent with only two weeks to go.

Schieffer: Wow. All right. Well, let's talk about this presidential race, because it couldn't be any closer, could it, Geoff?

Geoff Garin, pollster: No. It's really - you - you look at the national numbers and the polls mostly say that - that Bush has a lead, but a small lead. And what's really important is the swing states. I - as I figure it, Al Gore has about - got about 192 electoral votes he can count on; George Bush, 205. If you look at the remaining states where it's not decided, these races are dead even one after another after another. So it really is a nail-biter election.

Borger: John Zogby, what do you think it's going to come down to for these undecided voters?

Zogby:> Well, ultimately, it could come down to whoever makes the biggest mistake or the last mistake. It's that close. But there are groups that both are targeting. They're both targeting parents, mothers especially, Independent voters, younger voters, those in the $25,000 to $50,000 household income bracket, the group, ha - which has provided the winner in every election since 1972. Each are taking different approaches to those groups, and we're finding a fluctuation. It's close among those groups. Sometimes Bush is ahead a little bit among them; sometimes Gore is ah - ahead a little bit among them. But it is very, very close among those groups, too, as well as the states that Geoff just mentioned.

Schieffer: Is there anything they're doing that your polls show is not working, Geoff?

Garin: Well, I - loo - I think the - the voters are not following each and every ad and each and every little point. I think we're at a point now - there about 20 percent of the people who - who don't have a firm final preference, and they're just trying to figure this thing out. And it's really the big things they're trying to figure out, not all of the individual things. And so that I think what's important for - both for Gore and for Bush at the end, is to say, 'Here's the big difference. Here's the one thing that really counts.'

And I - and - and for - for Vice President Gore in particular, I think he needs to focus much more on the fact that we've had eight great years of an - of an economic recovery and of a government that operates on a commonsense basis of getting things done for people; and really pose the question of, 'Do they want to build on that foundation or just un - take that foundation down?' But it's really ge - getting - posing the central questions, and that - it's true for both campaigns.

Schieffer: Mr. Zogby, obviously the president is chomping at the bits to get out there and point out some of these things that Geoff Garin just - just talked about. Do you think that that would be helpful to Gore?

Zogby: I honestly believe that it would be. I think that Bill Clinton is one of two trump cards that Al Gore has. First of all, Gore needs to shore up his base. And no one better to speak to that Democratic base, especially African-Americans, than - than President Clinton in those target states. He could drive up turnout among those core constituent groups. The - the - in addition to that - you know, the five percent that Ralph Nader is polling is now looming very large in a two-, three-, four-point race, not only overall but in some key states.

Schieffer: Where are the states...

Zogby: And somehow...

Schieffer: Let me just interrupt you. Where are the states where - where you think that Nader could make a difference?

Zogby:: State of Washington, Oregon, Michigan, even Florida right now, where it's very, very close, and Nader's three percent is - is huge i a - in a two-point race.

Borger: Geoff, in the end, do you think that Bill Clinton will be a factor in this race?

Garin: Well, I think that - that one way or th - or the other he'll be a factor in the race. The - the Republicans are running against him. They're running - they're - they're trying to say that this was a failed administration. The truth is it was an incredibly successful administration. And I think it is important, as we get to the end, to remind people that they've got a lot of - invested in the - in - in what's been accomplished over the past eight years, and that a Bush administration could tear all of that down. So that - I - I don't think it's necessary for the two of them to campaign side by side, but I think that Bill Clinton is the best political communicator in a generation. He's helped build the best economy in several generations. And it seems a waste not to have those points being part of the final decision-making process in the last two weeks.

Schieffer: John Zogby, about 20 seconds here. Is this campaign going to turn nasty in the last stages?

Zogby: Of course. They always turn nasty, especially when it's this close and it will be nasty because so much of this campaign is boiling down to personalities. And so you will see ad - ad hominem attacks taking place.

Schieffer: And I would add, I see Geoff Garin shaking his head.

Garin: I - I agree. Let me just - real quickly. We just finished a poll in New York and we have Hillary Clinton up by about four points. So it's a hard state to poll and - as John knows, but I think Hillary's ahead.

Schieffer: You think she's ahead?

Garin: I do.

Schieffer: All right. We'll be back with a final word in just a minute.


Schieffer: Finally today, our comment last week that Congress has done so little you may not realize it's been in session got a rise out of House Republican Whip Tom DeLay, who wrote: 'Although I hesitate to admit I watch Face The Nation, your commentary was so egregiously misinformed and vacuous that I cannot help but offer a few of my own thoughts on the opinions you voiced.' The congressman called the commentary an insipid and uncreative regurgitation of the blandest conventional wisdom and went on to tell me: 'You suggested you can count this Congress' accomplishments on your nose. Television obviously improves your appearance.'

Well, Congressman, we obviously have a difference of opinion but you got me on one thing: Television does improve my appearance, especially around the nose area. In fact, here's how I look off camera. Notice I actually have two noses to help me count things, but with a good make-up job, it's hardly noticed.

In any case, we're glad to know that you watch Face The Nation, Congressman. All our viewers are important to us, and we're glad to count you among them. Thanks fr watching and have a nice day. That's it from us.

We'll see you right here next week on Face The Nation.